Tokyo stocks fall back in thin trading

Stocks suffered a mild setback in thin trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Wednesday, giving up their early gains on profit-taking.

The 225-issue Nikkei average shed 47.57 points, or 0.28 percent, to end at 17,000.98. On Tuesday, the key market gauge gained 323.74 points.

The Topix index of all first-section issues was down 5.73 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,364.20, after rising 24.88 points the previous day.

The Nikkei got off to a firmer start following the yen’s weakening against the dollar, and soon rose to as high as 17,142.08.

With the initial buying spree running its course, however, the market came under profit-taking pressure in the absence of fresh buying incentives, pushing down the key market gauge into negative territory.

After finishing the morning session slightly lower, the Nikkei lost further ground in the afternoon because active trading was held in check ahead of the Easter holiday period abroad later this week, brokers said. The index showed some resilience toward the close.

The Tokyo market reacted little to Tuesday’s deadly terror attacks in Brussels as major European stock markets recouped their early losses to end the day’s trading firmer, market sources said.

“Buying stopped in line with the Nikkei’s rise above 17,000, and some investors moved to sell stocks to lock in gains,” said Kenichi Hirano, market analyst at K Asset Co.

“I think investors found it difficult to step up purchases, with the dollar standing at the ¥112 level,” he said, noting that the yen is still higher than levels assumed by Japanese companies.

But the market’s downside was limited thanks to purchases aimed at securing rights to dividends for fiscal 2015, which ends on March 31, Hirano added.

In addition, hopes are growing for the government to put off the consumption tax increase to 10 percent from 8 percent slated for April 2017, after Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Paul Krugman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, expressed opposition to the hike at Tuesday’s meeting in Tokyo with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other economic policymakers.

If the tax hike is postponed, that would likely help boost the stock market, an official of a bank-affiliated securities firm said.

Falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,064 to 733 on the TSE’s first section, while 151 issues were unchanged.

Volume dwindled to 1.60 billion shares from Tuesday’s 2.01 billion shares.

Automakers Nissan and Honda, tire producer Bridgestone and electronic parts makers Alps Electric and Murata Manufacturing were downbeat.

Also on the minus side were oil companies including Inpex and JX Holdings.

Cookpad plunged 6.70 percent after the cooking recipe website operator on Tuesday removed Akimitsu Sano, its founder and top shareholder, from the post of executive officer, according to market sources.

On the other hand, general contractor Kajima attracted buying after the company on Tuesday announced an upward revision to its group earnings estimates for fiscal 2015 and a plan to raise its term-end dividends to 5 yen from 3 yen per share.

Clothing store chain operator Jeans Mate went limit-up as its same-store sales have been brisk.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average was down 100 points at 16,810.

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